High school baseball’s final two weeks of the regular season usually finds teams scrambling to fulfill predetermined goals – or maybe reshaping them with a positive spin.
At Northern Vance, the 2017 diamond mission has never wavered – continue the school’s consecutive streak of berths in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A State Playoffs, a number that currently stands at six.
The Vikings took another step in that quest Wednesday with a 13-3 home victory over crosstown rival Southern Vance, which fell to Northern for the third time in three tries this spring.
It wasn’t a league decision, but Northern Vance eight-year coach Benji Nelson stressed the importance of the triumph for his club’s overall record – a number that will help the Vikings’ chances of possibly obtaining a wild-card position in the playoffs.
“Right now, we are just looking at getting wins,” said Nelson, whose squad is now 10-7 overall to go with a 2-4 mark in the competitive Big 8 Conference standings. “I think we are better than our record, but we had a couple of bad losses when we didn’t show up to play. We are hot right now and hope to stay that way. This is a good time of the year to be playing well. We have five games left, and we feel like we have a good chance (at the playoffs) if we can get three of them.”
But it won’t be easy as Northern has two dates remaining with both league leader Northwood and backyard rival J.F. Webb, along with a make-up game versus always-strong Orange.
Southern Vance, at 3-14 overall and 2-8 in the Northern Carolina Conference, won’t be making the postseason in Weston Pearson’s second year in charge of the rebuilding program.
But in Pearson’s estimation, the Runnin’ Raiders still have plenty to play for down the stretch.
“We won three games last year and three so far this year,” Pearson said. “We would love to get to four wins – that would be important for us. And we will be playing two teams (Franklinton and Durham School of Arts) that we have already beaten this year.”
Pearson’s club took a 3-0 cushion Wednesday after the top of the second inning, but it didn’t take long for the homestanding Vikings to respond. In the bottom of the third, Northern Vance went ahead for good with a four-spot that featured RBI doubles from Austin Murphy, Ryan Bullock and Chris Stainback.
Bullock struck again with a run-scoring two-bagger in the bottom of the sixth that invoked the mandatory 10-run rule to end the contest.